Councillors in Neath Port Talbot have agreed to reinvest more than £4m back into local services from a projected budget underspend to underpin the process of recovery from the pandemic.
At a meeting of Cabinet on 24 November, members were presented with a budget monitoring report which outlined the current position and set out a number of proposals for reallocating £4m from the predicted end-of-year surplus.
Half of the money will go into creating a £2m “service resilience reserve”. This will help restore services affected by the pandemic, enable the council to meet the additional service demands that it is facing as a result of the pandemic and begin to respond to priorities identified by residents through the Let’s Talk engagement campaign.
The Leader of Neath Port Talbot Council, Cllr. Ted Latham said:
“Throughout the pandemic the council has worked with partners and our communities to protect vulnerable people, protect services and protect the NHS.
Pressure on our services is now more intense than at any time since the pandemic began, a position shared across the public sector.
“Whilst the situation is very tough, our employees remain motivated and committed to delivering services for Neath Port Talbot.
“The creation of a ‘service resilience reserve’ will enable us to increase the size of our workforce to ensure we have more people available to provide care and support to elderly and vulnerable residents; that we catch up on our neighbourhood services and ensure we have a resilient response for the winter period when typically we see an increase in flooding and inclement weather. The reserve will also ensure we can continue to support our schools and that we can continue to support the NHS and Public Health Wales.”
Cllr. Carol Clement-Williams, Cabinet Member for Finance added:
“Like all councils, we went into 2021/22 with an unprecedented level of uncertainty. It wasn’t possible to predict how Covid-19 would develop or affect the council’s service delivery, costs and income.
“The Welsh Government Hardship Fund due to end in September 2021, was extended until the end of March 2022. To put this in context, during 2020/21 we benefited from £24m of financial support from this fund.
“In addition, there are a number of ‘one-off’ situations, for example staff vacancies contributing to a Social Services underspend of £2.4m.
“It is important that we use the underspend to the best benefit for the county borough. A big part of that will be to build service resilience. The funding will enable us to create a number of jobs across service areas and for the first time in many years we are in a position to recruit externally. I would encourage anyone who would like to be part of our drive to help communities recover from this pandemic to come forward and join Team NPT.”